Iara Backes ’19, co-president of Geisel School of Medicine’s chapter of the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA), has been elected president of the organization’s Northeast Region for a two-year term. And Joshua Ramos ’19, was elected chief financial officer of the Northeast Region for a two-year term. Backes succeeds Adrianna Stanley ‘18 and Freddy Vazquez ’18, and will spend one year as president-elect while transitioning to the role as president
Both Backes and Ramos are active members of Geisel’s LMSA chapter. Given that experience, Backes says she wanted to be more involved with the organization on a regional level. During last fall’s LMSA regional meeting, she and Ramos learned about upcoming leadership positions, discussed possibilities, and decided to pursue positions that played to their strengths—Backes is skilled at getting things done and Ramos’ previous experience in business and healthcare fit perfectly with the role.
“I’m good at bringing people together around a common goal and getting it accomplished,” Backes says of her bid for the position. “As president, you need to understand each role within the organization to make sure you are helping everyone meet the mission. It’s the president’s responsibility is to make sure the group is functioning well and I am able to do that while making sure the needs of a group are being met as we move forward. This is one of the reasons I wanted this position.”
In his new role as chief financial officer, Ramos says that by managing the regional chapter’s budget, which operationalizes the director’s strategy, he will continue supporting people as they move through the pipeline from undergraduates, to medical students, and beyond—something he cites as very important to him.
“I’ll also be working with the regional director, along with the fundraising chair, to figure out the goals of the group, in order to create a financial plan to meet those goals,” Ramos says.
“Adrianna and Freddy have put the regional group in a good position and I hope to continue that as well as to figure out innovative ways to help the more than 40 chapters throughout our region, along with the new chapters being formed every year,” he adds.
A foundational mission of Geisel’s LMSA chapter, Ramos explains, is bringing together those interested in Latino health through events and mentoring, “the Latino population here is small, but this organization allows us to connect with each other.”
For Backes, that connection is important. “One of the things that’s the most valuable part of being involved with this organization, is seeing keynote speakers of similar backgrounds who have overcome the same struggles to achieve prominent positions,” she says. “You become inspired by them and that keeps me involved.
“Making connections as I move forward, I’m reminded of what matters to me and how I want to make an impact—meeting mentors and being a mentor myself.”
LMSA is in a position to bridge the cultural divide. As Ramos notes, every health-care provider will interact with Hispanic patients no matter where they practice. “This year we did a great job with that through Hispanic Heritage Month programming, which was open to the school,” he says. “And on a regional level we can take the lead on supporting the next generation of Hispanic physicians.”
Of importance for Backes and Ramos, LMSA is open to all non-Hispanics who are allies for Latino health. “We have members who are not Hispanic; we love their support and their willingness to immerse themselves in the culture and that’s something I really like,” Backes says. “I encourage people to step outside their comfort zone.”